By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University
As a former online student who completed my bachelor’s, master’s and even my doctorate degrees through online universities, I experienced the common challenges of attending college full time and managing other responsibilities. While I was attending online classes full time I was also raising children and on active duty in the military.
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Over the past 10 years, I have been an online instructor working with my students to overcome a wide range of challenges and unexpected events. These challenges have included students experiencing a death in the family, military deployments, technology problems and conflicting work-school commitments.
However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, I have seen more challenges for online college students than I ever saw in the past. Those student challenges during the pandemic have included:
- Substantially increased work responsibilities for first responders
- Stress associated with the pandemic
- Students who have had family members affected by the coronavirus
- Students placed under quarantine
- Students experiencing financial issues due to their employment being curtailed or lost
Struggling Students Should Communicate Their Issues to Their Instructors
For these students, it is very important that they communicate their issues to their instructors and academic advisors because they can provide their students with critical support.
For example, the instructor may be able to give students additional time to complete an assignment or additional coaching and support to assist with their coursework. In addition, academic advisors and instructors who are made aware of student challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can direct those students to support services available at their school. For example, American Public University has a chaplain who is available to speak with students facing personal challenges.
Academic advisors may also be able to recommend additional community or school support services based on the situation. For students who have fallen behind in their coursework during this unprecedented time, instructors may be able to offer a course extension to help them avoid falling too far behind and catching up.
Students Who Communicate Challenges Related to the Coronavirus Pandemic Are More Likely to Succeed in Their Classes
Students who communicate with their instructor about the challenges they are experiencing are more likely to succeed in their classes. Instructors may be able to work with these students to set up an academic plan in class to help them work through their personal challenges while remaining on track to successfully complete the course.
Instructors Can Positively Impact by Looking for Indicators of Struggle during the Coronavirus Pandemic
During this time when students face unique challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, instructors can have a positive impact on their education by monitoring for indicators of students who are struggling in class. When these situations arise, instructors can reach out to them to determine if there is an underlying issue that is preventing them from completing the coursework.
This is especially important in online classes because students and instructors don’t meet in a synchronous environment and instructors are unable to spot indicators of a student dealing with a personal struggle that would likely be observed in a traditional class setting. Instructors who are unable to reach these students can take the extra step of speaking to their academic advisors to alert them to telltale signs, such as student absences in class. This additional outreach is likely to help students obtain the additional support they need to succeed in class.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor with American Public University in the School of Security and Global Studies. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, local law enforcement’s response to domestic terrorism, and promoting resiliency from police stress. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.
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